Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Jesus held by rage

The Rev. Dr. David A. Van Dyke, in a sermon, "Boo Radley's Porch," placed on the Covenant Networks site writes of Jesus’ reaction to the need of a leper in Mark 1:40-45. The text states that Jesus was moved out of pity but Van Dyke states that could be translated anger. He writes:

And why was he so angry? Because the man was sick? Perhaps in part. But I think what really angered Jesus that day was the unfair treatment of that leper by society and the religion, and the irrational fear that used its sacred texts and traditions to justify and validate its exclusion and demonizing of one already vulnerable.
Van Dyke of course goes on to equate the leper with all marginalized people whose problems cannot be hid from society including LGBT people. He then turns the subject about and castigates those who are leaving the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A):
I look at the Presbyterian Church today and see those who are promoting schism and going to great lengths to leave—those who are guilty of the sinful stewardship of everyone’s time and resources just because they don’t agree that all churches should be free to discern the Spirit’s leading in electing their own leadership.
There is more but I want to focus on Jesus’ reaction to the leper and to something much more serious but nonetheless something that is connected to the leper. The New Testament text often speaks of Jesus reaction to the miseries around him. And undoubtedly Jesus’ pity for the leper was also anger, but not at sacred texts or even people. John’s gospel recounts another time when Jesus reacted with great anger. That was at the death of his friend Lazarus.

When Jesus confronted death in the body of Lazarus the text states that he was “deeply moved within.” R. V. G. Tasker, in his commentary on John, clarifies this in great detail using Warfield who uses Calvin. Referring to Paul’s description of death as the “the last enemy that shall be destroyed,” Tasker writes:
To bring about his destruction was the chief purpose for which the Son of God had entered the human arena. B.B. Warfield’s comment on this passage may therefore well be right, ‘It is death that is the object of his wrath, and behind death him who has the power of death, and whom he has come into the world to destroy. Tears of sympathy may fill his eyes, but this is incidental. His soul is held by rage: and he advances to the tomb, in Calvin’s words, “as a champion who prepares for conflict”. The raising of Lazarus thus becomes not an isolated marvel, but … a decisive instance and open symbol of Jesus’ conquest of death and hell. … Not in cold unconcern, but in flaming wrath against the foe, Jesus smites in our behalf. …’
The healing of the leper and every healing by Jesus was just a foretaste of his final victory over the enemy. Jesus’ forgiveness of sins was an even greater part of that final work. That is part of what he wanted the people to understand when he forgave the sins of the paralytic before he healed him. (Mark 2: 1-12) Healing, forgiveness, new life, eternal life: given because of Christ’s life, death and resurrection.

The Scribes refused to accept the forgiveness because they did not believe Jesus was God. “Only God can forgive sins, they said. But what we often fail to see is the great transformative divide; not only are we transformed by the work of Jesus but he, through the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see what his great battle entails, the agony, blood, grief and yes, anger toward sin and death that he carried for us. We are divided from all unbelieving scribes by the knowledge of Jesus’ great redemptive battle on our behalf.

Dyke writes of how Jesus touches the leper before he heals him thus taking “into his own being the man’s situation.” Truthfully on the cross he “bore our sins.” And this is why some are turning away from the PCUSA, so that they might feel freer to minister and proclaim the forgiveness of Christ to all sinners rather than ignoring some in their own particular leprous condition and allowing them to go on suffering.

And this is why some are staying-it has nothing to do with dialogue-but rather that the good news that Christ died for all sinners may be heard anew. They want the leper who does not acknowledge her need to turn back to the one who shed his blood for the forgiveness of sin.

Monday, February 27, 2012

"Nice Jewish girls," the "Rothschilds" & the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)

Since the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) let go of their Facebook page I have been hopeful that they would steer clear of linking to extraordinarily anti-Semitic sites. It is not to be. At least it is not to be as long as they maintain their relationship with James Wall. On their Twitter wall they have linked to Wall’s article, “Which Matters Most, AIPAC’s Power, or Rachel Corrie’s Death?” This is a sad effort to link the Jewish organization, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, (AIPAC), with the accidental death of a young activist by an Israeli bulldozer driver. The story leads on to encouragement of divestment activity by both the United Methodist General Conference and the PC (U.S.A.)’s General Assembly.

Wall’s thoughts about AIPAC are summarized with this, “AIPAC is the power center lobby engine that drives American foreign policy. It reaches, rewards, and where needed, threatens, members of the US power elite.”

But the really scary part of Wall's article is his casual comment that the video of Rachel Corrie he is using was sent to him by Debbie Menon. And he, as I have done, has linked to her site, My Catbird Seat. Menon not only is the Administrator and Editor of My Catbird Seat, she is also Middle East Issues Editor at Veterans Today’s very vile anti-Semitic site whose Chairman of the Board is Gordon Duff. Wall calls both people his friends and both sites carry his articles. And both Menon and Duff believe that Israel was behind the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center. But they believe so much more.

On Menon’s site on the side is a list of popular articles. One is an article by Duff entitled “Is America’s racketeering ‘elite’ a terrorist organization.” Duff, using a horrid Nazi like picture of an octopus with many Jewish organizations named on the legs enveloping the Capital,  is writing about all of the Jewish organizations in the United States.[1] He writes:
Everyone has heard the story at one time or another. President Wilson was duped into setting up the Federal Reserve system. The term “Federal Reserve” is a lie. The Rothschild family and their predecessors that have controlled European currencies forever, since the 1600s and before, took over operation of America in 1913, printing our money and running the country through a series of banks that they control, and not all that “secretly.”

”Federal Reserve” means “Rothschild.” “Rothschild” means poverty, hunger, ignorance and, most of all, war. This is all you really need to know. Everything else, the Pentagon, Wall Street, the corporate news, congress, the Supreme Court, the arms industry bandits are nothing but their henchmen, cowards and thieves that sold their souls for cash, the perception of power and vice.
Even uglier is a highlighted part he places in his article:
Walk the corridors of power in America and you will see vice, drugs, sex and corruption. We all know the “nice Jewish girls” that are passed around Washington like party favors, Monica Lewinsky, Chandra Levy are only two names America knows. There are a hundred more. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out who recruited them and why. Sex is power in Washington, London, Rome and Tel Aviv. If they aren’t snared in Washington, fly them to Tel Aviv. They got John McCain in Hanoi, or so reliable sources tell us, giving North Vietnam virtual control over American trade policies with Vietnam and guaranteeing the slow death of hundreds of abandoned prisoners of war.
It goes on and gets worse so let me ask some questions:

1. If James Wall links to these sites and is a friend of Menon and Duff, even using their material, doesn’t that make him an anti-Semite?

2. If the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A) keeps upholding and linking to Wall’s articles even commenting favorably as IPMN’s communications chairman, Noushin Framke, did in the comment section, doesn’t that make the IPMN anti-Semitic?

3. It the PC (U.S.A.) keeps exonerating and upholding the IPMN without public rebuke doesn’t that make the PC (U.S.A) anti-Semitic?

The answer 'yes' brings the PC(U.S.A.) under the judgment of God. If the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) cannot say to the Israel/Palestine Mission Network stay away from all anti-Semitic sites in your posting and praise or disengage yourself from the PCUSA, they stand under God’s judgment because of the vile slander they are allowing their own organizations to connect to. None of us are innocent but if we go on allowing these connections and do not speak up we also need to repent.

[1]The picture of Nazi slander was taken with permission from the archive of Nazi propaganda at the Calvin College site. It is not unlike the one displayed on Duff's article.

Friday, February 24, 2012

How not to be missional in Mission Presbytery

We are all interested in what it means to be missional. Everyone has a theory, but one thing I am certain of it doesn’t mean ignore the cultural background of the people you want to proclaim the good news to. Jesus won’t be good news if he only comes in Western garb and ideals. Many have said you can’t equate capitalism with Christianity and you can’t nor with any other political ideology. Perhaps we need to quit equating Presbyterian polity with Christianity especially when it seems we don’t understand the cultural background of so many. The members of three churches in Texas probably think Presbyterian polity belongs to the anti-Christ by now. After all they have been threatened with jail because of Presbyterian polity.

When my children were young I made many trips into Baja which is a part of Mexico. My husband and I often stayed at an orphanage which at the time was almost an international community. But it was certainly like a large family and the Hispanics who lived there and worked there made it so. One time when my husband was visiting his brother who worked there they went to a home close by where a restaurant had existed which they thought still existed. They walked in without knocking, ordered lunch and were served although the family no longer used their home as a restaurant. Such is the generosity of the Mexican people.

I write this to explain that when the members of El Principe de Paz, Mercedes TX, moved out of their Church at the request of the Stated Clerk of Mission Presbytery they took some things with them they felt were theirs. The articles made by them and even donated by their grandparents were considered by them to be theirs. That is not unreasonable. Now some presbytery staff members are threatening to arrest them and they are “terrified and living in fear.” This has nothing to do with mission and certainly not with Christianity. This is in fact bullying.

I know there are good people in Mission Presbytery, both progressives and conservatives. Where is their voice? Now is the time for Mission Presbytery to be truly missional. This is a call to love as Jesus loved us. This is a call to truly lift up the verse that is so loved by Presbyterians:

“He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God? (Micah 6:8”)

I am also thinking of the confession of sin written by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. There is that part that says this:

“The Church confesses herself guilty towards the countless victims of calumny, denunciation and defamation. She has not convicted the slanderer of his wrongdoing, and she has thereby abandoned the slandered to his fate.
The Church confesses that she has desired security, peace and quiet, possessions and honour, to which she has no right, and in this way she has not bridled the desires of men but has stimulated them still further.” [1]

May our Lord be merciful.

[1] Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Ethics 115.

Picture-my husband and I walking down a road in Colonia Guerrero Baja with some of our children and their friends from the orphanage.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The mean season and the joy of Christ

As some complain about how the Jane Spahr case turned out and others write about how they can deal with those who still believe same gender sex is sin the meanness is deafening. On one blog one elder writing a comment about what he believes is the inevitableness of the PCUSA accepting same gender marriage writes:

I'm not sure what the fundies get out of delaying the inevitable (I mean, even they can see it, right?) other than the opportunity to just be mean because they can be mean and/or because they enjoy it. But whatever the reason, the PCUSA and the rest of society will change for the simple reason that we will not stop until it does change.

We’ve clearly taught the PCUSA that lesson on ordination, but apparently some people are slow. So we’ll teach them again.[1]
On the Covenant Network a sermon by Tricia Dykers Koenig entitled All Things to All People has been posted. Using 1 Corinthians 9: 16-23, the text in which Paul admonishes Christians to forego food offered to idols for the sake of the weaker brother, Koenig manages to continually insult those who believe that same gender sex is sin.

Through the whole sermon she considers them weaker brothers and sisters. She speaks of their “homophobia,” their discrimination and insists that they harm others. She even states that they obscure the gospel. And she adds that one of the reasons we must try to stay together is “For the sake of those who think they do know absolute Truth and need, themselves, to be redeemed by the Gospel of grace.”

Added to this is her contrast of the weaker Christian with those who possess a “superior theological understanding.” So how do the orthodox respond?

Not to the Progressives at all, but to the love of the Lord Jesus Christ in thankfulness for his many blessings. In John 17: 13-19, Jesus prays for his own. He says that they will be hated as he is hated. He prays for their joy, their unity, their sanctity in the truth and he sends them into the world with the good news. And not least he prays for their protection from the evil one.

There is joy because we do know the Truth. He has a name, Jesus. In John’s first epistle he writes:

What was from the beginning what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we have looked at and touched with our hands, concerning the Word of Life—and the life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us—what we have seen and heard we proclaim to you also, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. These things we write so that our joy may be made complete. (1:1-4)

Thomas Brooks, a puritan pastor, in his book, Precious remedies against Satan’s Devices writes of Christ as the only worthy object in a Christian's life. While I find myself wanting to quote several pages there is this:
We have all things in Christ, and Christ is all things to a Christian. If he be sick, he is a physician; if we thirst, he is a fountain; if our sins trouble us, he is righteousness; if we stand in need of help, he is mighty to save; if we fear death, he is life; if we be in darkness, he is light; if we be weak, he is strength; if we be in poverty, he is plenty; if we desire heaven, he is the way. The soul cannot say, this I would have, and that I would have; but saith Christ, it is in me, it is in me eminently, perfectly, eternally.
There is a haven wide enough for all of the weak brothers and sisters. It is a place where we are not considered evil but are seen covered with Christ’s righteousness. Jesus gives us a name that is not known by the world. It is not a place where we necessarily hold absolute truth but where the absolute Truth holds us and we know absolutely that he holds us.

[1] by Alan Kiste

Monday, February 20, 2012

PC (U.S.A) divestment-the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions Movement & Finkelstein

The Presbyterian News Service posted an article, Feb. 17, 2012, informing the public that the General Assembly Mission Council had voted to recommend that the 220th General assembly divest from Caterpillar, Motorola and Hewlett-Packard. Jerry L. Van Marter of the PNS explained that this occurred with recommendations from the Presbyterian Mission Responsibility Through Investment Committee (MRTI), who asked for the recommendation because the companies continue to allow their products to be used by Israel for military purposes.

Marter wrote of several members of the GAMC who disagreed with the vote including “Kears Pollock, a council member and retired corporate executive from Bruin, Pa.” Marter wrote that Pollock, “opposed the recommendation, saying that divestment is “ineffective and unproductive and actually goes against peacemaking. In fact, some of these activities have actually saved lives.”

Despite protest to the contrary, by MRTI, that this is not a “general divestment,” this will hook the PC (U.S.A.) to the Boycott, Divestment Sanctions movement whose goals run counter to the denomination’s policies. As long as the GAMC upholds the policies of the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the PC (U.S.A.) they are upholding the BDS movement of which IPMN is a part.

The IPMN-PC (U.S.A.) is pleased that the GAMC has sided with them about divestment rather than publically rebuking their anti-Semitism. IPMN has displayed such anti-Semitism in their publications and their past Facebook. And as stated above, IPMN-PC (U.S.A.), have joined the BDS movement sharing their promotion of a one state solution and like them refusing to condemn violence by radical groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Anyone aware of the BDS movement and its promoters will recognize the name Norman Finkelstein who has advocated for the movement for many years. In a turn of events Finkelstein has began to reverse his feelings about the movement. And I think the PC (U.S.A.) should listen. The video below is one of snatches of his conversations with a BDS promoter in France. Watching the whole video is very enlightening so I will place a link where the whole video is linked.

Arguing the Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) Campaign with Norman Finkelstein

See also Finkelstein on BDS: A Cult of Dishonesty

Saturday, February 18, 2012

"Why do they need the building?"

“Why do they need the building?” a pastor’s four year old asked as he and others cleared out his office. This is the ultimate question for members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) today. A friend who is a psychologist sat in my kitchen this morning talking about family therapy. He explained that when a family experiences a crisis that is when one finds out the spirit and strength of that family. They may respond with courage and love, they might respond with outrage and spite. How are we as a Presbyterian family doing? How are our Presbyteries responding to the crisis at hand?

One church in Oklahoma meets in a theater after being kicked out of their church home. The pastor was fired several weeks before his retirement. Some churches pay horrific sums of money. One church and pastor volunteered to meet in a home waiting for God’s direction. Some churches are stuck in slow motion, almost at standstill, some waiting several years for their presbyteries to finally clear a reasonable pathway for them to join a different Reformed body.

There are gracious Presbyteries and Executive Presbyters who allow beautiful closure services that include the receiving denomination. And then there is the stated clerk who demanded that a pastor clear out his office and drop the church’s keys off to the COM Regional Chair in less then a week after he, another pastor and three Hispanic churches disaffiliated and renounced jurisdiction.

The pastors and the churches, one without a pastor, have good reason to renounce jurisdiction far more then most Presbyterian (U.S.A.) churches. Their churches are all in poor neighborhoods. Their ministry to Hispanic people is being troubled not only by lack of care by their presbytery but also by progressive cultural standards in the denomination that many in Hispanic communities do not accept. And there are greater theological issues having to do with Christology and the authority of the word that are definitely unacceptable.

Three congregations, El Principe de Paz, (Mercedes TX), Iglesia Presbiteriana Getsemani (San Benito, TX) and Iglesia Presbiteriana San Pablo (Brownsville, TX), with two pastors, Rev. Hector Reynoso and Rev. Tom Johnson, renounced jurisdiction and joined the Evangelical Presbyterian Church. They left for the reasons above and they did so by disaffiliation because they were concerned with the separation policy of Mission Presbytery. As they pointed out in their letter to members and staff of Mission Presbytery the policy “does not allow a session or congregation to freely discuss the option of leaving.”

The letter written to the Presbytery ,after acknowledging the trust clause in the Book of Order, contained a plea for kindness:
Therefore we appeal to your sense of mercy and implore of you to dig deep within your hearts, and allow us to keep our properties, our assets and bank accounts. We are not rich churches, we do not have a high income, we do not have big bank accounts, and we are all located in low income neighborhoods in two of the poorest counties of the United States. So we kindly implore for the sake of the extension of God's kingdom that you will let us go with the little that we have; so that we may continue to let His light shine in our respective neighborhoods.
But they did not receive kindness, rather a letter to Rev. Reynoso, from Stated Clerk, Karen Stocks, which included this:
Concurrent with this renunciation taking effect, the pastoral relationship with El Principe De Paz, Mercedes TX is ended without further action by any party. Per your request, you may retrieve "books and personal items" from the church property. No later than Friday, February 16,2012, remove your personal items and turn in all church keys to COM Regional Chair.
As Rev. Reynoso’s congregation gathered, worshiped and made the decision that they would all leave together, many helped him clean out his office. As he did so, his small daughter, not quite five, kept asking, “but why do they need the building?" So why does Mission Presbytery need the buildings of three Hispanic churches in low income neighborhoods? The presbytery is obviously not interested in mission or they would rejoice that these churches are still there, still reformed and still proclaiming the gospel. If it is Presbyterian polity they are upholding, perhaps they have failed to add mercy to the mix.

Our spiritual wellbeing is at stake in these troubled times. Scripture speaks to the Christian about a judgment that begins from and with the house of God. (1 Peter 4:17) As both John H. Elliot & Wayne Grudem in their respective commentaries point out this beginning is a judgment of evaluation & testing as well as vindication for those suffering (Elliot). Grudem, using Malachi 3, sees such judgment as purifying and refining. Many times we do not know ourselves. Until the crisis comes, like the families my friend spoke of, we do not know how close we have chosen to walk with Jesus.

God will winnow his people. Judgment comes as a means of calling many to repent of their hard hearts. We need to hear the cry for mercy. We must and will glorify God above and beyond any particular denominational polity.

In a final letter to Mission Presbytery, Rev. Reynoso wrote that all congregations had turned in their keys to the Committee on Ministry. They once again reminded the Presbytery of their request to keep their property. Rev. Reynoso added a p.s.:
Please be informed that El Principe de Paz owns a small cemetery and many of our saints are buried there. It is designated to bury our church members. Please take good care of it.
Indeed! May all who stand for Jesus Christ, the Church militant, the Church triumphant, be taken good care of.

At the 219 General Assembly: Hector was and is a courageous and faithful follower of Jesus.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Belhar again: unity without confessing Christ

When storms pass over head they sometimes carry nature’s malice. It seems that many storm clouds are gathering for the coming 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). National Capital Presbytery has sent an overture (039 )to GA asking once again for the Book of Confessions to be amended to include the Confession of Belhar. The 219th General Assembly sent this to the presbyteries after a long process, which included an earlier GA, and it did not have the 2/3 majority needed to pass.

This is a Confession that was helpful during the terrible years of apartheid in South Africa but because it does not clearly confess Jesus Christ as Lord but instead focuses on unity it has become a favorite confession of some who are now ordaining LGBT candidates. I experienced this relationship between the two, LGBT advocacy and Belhar while attending the 219th GA as an advocate for Sacramento’s overture seeking not to place the confession in our Book of Confessions.

Two people who gave testimony about why Sacramento’s overture should not pass are very involved in advocacy for both the ordination of LGBT candidates and same gender marriage, Janet Edwards, spoke as did Elizabeth Henson Hasty. I wrote in a much earlier posting of their words.
[Edwards] asked for disapproval [of Sacramento’s overture] so that instead Belhar would pass and gays and lesbians would have a confession that allows them to be ordained. The second person was Elizabeth Henson Hasty a member of ACWC. She wanted Sacramento’s overture to be disapproved but her main thought was not only to allow Belhar to pass but she wanted an inclusive edition on the PCUSA web. In the committee’s actions they both received their request.
Some might ask why this overture matters anymore since, supposedly, now LGBT candidates can be ordained. The problems are even greater now for two reasons. First, because Belhar focuses on unity rather than confessing Christ it will reinforce the call to be in unity no matter what standards or theologies are in force in the PCUSA. Unity will become the all encompassing value over all other issues. I experienced this recently in a sermon given at a presbytery meeting. Jesus as Lord was equated with unity no matter the diverse beliefs, including other faiths, rather than unity because all held to Christ as the one, unique, Lord.

Secondly, now, more than ever, the Church must be about confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. To amend our Book of Confessions now with a Confession which does not truly, ultimately and forcefully confess Christ would be a travesty. A young pastor, recently on his blog, A Christian's Reflections, using Google, started listing those PCUSA pastors who do not believe Jesus is God. He could have, in the same manner looked for those pastors and theologians who do not believe that Jesus’ death on the cross has anything to do with forgiveness of sins. We need anew to confess Christ.

As the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) experiences assaults from the enemy of all our souls in ways it has not before experienced, we need to be reminded of our sure foundation, Jesus Christ our Lord.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

An overture coming to Sacramento Presbytery

Sacramento Presbytery in their February 25th meeting will be voting on an overture for the 220th General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The overture is entitled “On honoring Christ in our relationships with one another.” It is endorsed by Teaching Elder Margaret E. Cross and St Stephens Presbyterian Church. It can be found at the Presbytery of Sacramento, as Attachment A. The overture which has some great ideas nonetheless has a logical flaw and a theological misunderstanding. It has some minor problems too. However, I do think that this is all unintentional. I will explain.

The overture is seemingly attempting to bring us altogether in reconciliation; each accepting the other’s interpretation of Scripture as it pertains to the issue of sexuality. However, the most important lines in the overture state:
The 220th General Assembly (2012) acknowledges that faithful Presbyterians earnestly seeking to follow Jesus Christ hold different views about what the Scriptures teach concerning the morality of committed same-gender relationships. Therefore, while holding persons in ordered ministry to high standards of covenant fidelity in the exercise of their sexuality, as in all aspects of life, we decline to take an action that would have the effect of imposing on the whole Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) one interpretation of Scripture in this matter. We commit ourselves to continue respectful dialogue with those who hold differing convictions, to welcome one another for God’s glory, and not to vilify those who convictions we believe to be in error.(bold mine)
An overture asking all to speak kindly to others would undoubtedly be helpful. That is a Christian calling. However, this overture is doing much more. Under the guise of caring about each other it is asking for one side to now accept things as they are and to not attempt to vote back into polity any sexual fidelity standards that we held barely a year ago. After one side used GAs over and over to change our standards the orthodox are being asked to not try and change them back. The logical flaw is that while asking for congeniality among members of the PCUSA, the overture is attempting to put shackles on the actions of one side of the debate.

Going even further the overture concludes that there are now no sexual standards but that of fidelity—within same gender relationships and relationships between a man and a woman. But that has not yet actually been determined. After all we have both Scripture and Confessions that only speak of marriage between a man and a woman.[1] And we do have a court case pending on this exact issue.

The theological misunderstanding: The rationale attempts to put both sides on equal standing by suggesting that:
While it is incumbent on all to continue to seek God’s will for sexuality, no human being has a full understanding of God’s Truth and all are called to humility before the Lord and charity toward one another. Questioning the faithfulness of those who in good conscience disagree with our interpretation does not bring honor to Christ or build up the Church.
No, we could not possibly have a full understanding of God’s Truth but we do have the written word of God and with that the revelation that he has given us. But more so the progressive side of the argument does not yet understand that the orthodox in the church see the issue as a matter of either denying the Lord Jesus Christ or submitting to his will. If you ask the orthodox to submit to actions they consider unbiblical it is the same as asking them to offer a pinch of incense to Caesar.

Some mistakes concerning Scripture and Confessions.

There is a paragraph in the body of the overture that is missing an important line. It is from the Second Helvetic Confession, 5.010.:
We hold that interpretation of the Scriptures to be orthodox and genuine which is gleamed from the Scriptures themselves (from the nature of the language in which they were written, likewise according to the circumstances in which they were set down, and expounded in the light of like and unlike passages [here “and of many and clearer passages” is missing]) and which agree with the rule of faith and love, and contributes much to the glory of God and man’s salvation.
The idea of looking at the many and clearer passages of scripture on homosexuality has a great deal to do with the interpretation of the scriptures. The line should be added back into the overture before it is voted on.

The rationale also states, “Although Scriptures contain a variety of patterns of sexual relationships without condemnation, most Presbyterians believe that intimate sexual expression is to be restricted to a committed partnership between two consenting adults who regard one another as equals and seek to honor God, community, and each other in their covenant relationship.” The author goes on to say that there are two different views about the right or wrong of the gender of the two consenting adults.

Yet, although the Scripture speaks of men with many wives and it seems to allow this in the Hebrew Bible, God does not put his stamp of approval on the many wives. And Jesus goes back to God’s original mandate of one man and one woman when questioned about divorce. (See Genesis 2:21-24 and Matthew 19:4-8) There is no biblical record of same gender marriage with God's approval.

There is too much amiss in this overture. It can only damage further the relationships of members of the PCUSA.

[1] The overture strains to not use the word marriage thus seemingly accepting even fornication.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent by some dear friends

I am placing a document, written by some dear friends, on my blog today. The document, Here We Stand: A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent, and Necessary Action, in response to actions of the Presbyterian Church USA, is a sign of the struggle the Western Church is involved at this time. The many Reformation Confessions attest to the Church’s struggle during that period we call the Reformation when greed, false teaching and sexual sins were rampant in the church. There were many declarations and confessions written during the Church struggle in Nazi Germany. Such statements are guides, as well as warnings, to believers that God is calling his Church to awareness, repentance, obedience, prayer and back to the authority of Scripture and the Lordship of Christ.

The Declaration follows with a link to the site where it can be signed.

 Here We Stand

A Declaration of Conscientious Dissent, and Necessary Action, in response to actions of the Presbyterian Church USA.

After prayerful consideration of recent actions of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church USA and the affirmation of these actions by a majority of the several Presbyteries, we note that there is significant disagreement with these actions among Presbyterians of good standing. Furthermore, we accept the principle written into our constitution that councils of the church can and do err (F-3.0107). Therefore, we, the undersigned, submit the following statement declaring the most pressing areas of our disagreement, in which we state clearly our faith as relevant to this controversy, and the actions required by that faith which we assert our willingness to do, until these errors of these councils, should be sufficiently corrected.

We do this in all humility, yet believing that the Universal Church of Jesus Christ has long affirmed its prophetic role to declare the Word and Will of God in the world. This is universally acknowledged and accepted by all segments of the Body. We believe that the turmoil and ongoing debate over issues of sexuality in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a symptom of confusion about the interpretation and authority of Scripture for our lives. The Bible is God's written Word, revealing together the Word and Will of God to humankind, and is the unique revelation of Jesus Christ, God the Son and the Second Person of the Triune God,who is our Lord and Savior. Therefore, we humbly acknowledge that the Bible as we have received it is the product of the Holy Spirit's inspiration and preservation. Where the Church has erred in the past in interpretation or application of Scriptural Authority, it has been the error of the Church and not of Scripture, which while reflecting the historical context of the human writers, nonetheless is inspired and reliable to instruct us in, and thereby direct us toward God's will for our faith and life in all times and places. We are accountable to the Word of God, the Word is not accountable to us or to what appears to be “knowledge” which we observe from other sources or create from our own reasonings. We are to be shaped by the Word; we do not shape the Word---except to our own peril.

In our attempt to uphold God's standard for sexual expression, we have sometimes expressed rejection toward those who struggle with their sexual identity or who engage in same-sex relations, while failing to express even a mild reprimand toward those who sin in heterosexual relationships: in both cases the Lord calls us to repentance for our failure to speak the proper healing prophetic word. Again, we recognize that human sexuality within the covenant of marriage between one man and one woman is a wondrous gift, when enjoyed within the biblical principles provided by God; yet many of us in the Church and culture have considered personal sexual fulfillment more important than obedience to God's call, and have thereby turned the gift into an idol. Our idolatry has led to broken marriages, broken homes, and broken lives.

I. We repent for our idolatry and lack of compassion, and choose to make Jesus Christ, His Kingdom, and righteousness the centerpiece of our lives.

II. We declare our commitment to Scripture's infallible truth. The recent actions by the PCUSA to change ordination standards is in blatant disobedience to the plain teaching of the Bible, promoting and encouraging behavior that Scripture condemns as sin. Our proper response to the Word of God is to submit to it; through the ministry of the Holy Spirit we seek to conform our experience to that Word, not to conform the Word to our experience.

Our Reformed tradition has always stood on the absolute authority of Scripture in these matters. The Bible tells us that male and female alike are made in God's image and are intended by God to express sexual love for one another only within the bonds of the life-long covenant of marriage. We resist oversimplifications about the causes and cures of human sexual ills and recognize that a variety of prenatal and environmental factors may influence each of us. Transformation into the image of Christ is a process in which biblical preaching, prayer, support groups, Christian counseling, and personal repentance play a vital part through the gracious and truthful outreach of the Christian church.

III. We will not teach that homoerotic practice is affirmed, blessed, or approved of by Jesus Christ; instead, we will teach that it is a sin to be confessed with a repentant heart. Furthermore, we confess that homoerotic practice is contrary to the will of God expressed by Jesus Christ in Scripture; and that it is a grave injustice, tantamount to utmost hatred, to teach, preach, or counsel the acceptability of homoerotic practice in the eyes of Jesus Christ to God’s precious children who happen to experience same-gender attraction. By God’s grace, we will strive to offer compassionate ministries of healing for those who have experienced brokenness from extramarital affairs, sexual addiction, promiscuity, unwanted same-sex attractions, divorce, and the like, as part of the overall expression of God’s love shown through the ministries of the Church.

IV. We confess that Christian marriage is a covenant between one man and one woman, ordained by God, and designed for three purposes:

1. The mutual help and joyful fulfillment of husband and wife.

2. The safeguarding, undergirding, and development of their moral and spiritual character.

3. The propagation of children and the rearing of them in the discipline and instruction of the Lord. (The inability of some male-and-female couples to have children does not contradict this element of God's purpose in marriage.)

We do not acknowledge the existence of such a thing as same-gender marriage, but rather confess that same-gender coupling is a violation of the image of God in humankind and contrary to a Scriptural definition of marriage.

V. We call on our brothers and sisters in Christ to join with us as we follow the Bible's teaching, our Reformed confessions, and tradition of the Church throughout history in declaring that the only possible expressions of sexuality that are not in direct rebellion against God's revealed will are those that are within the covenant of Christian marriage.

VI. We believe that those who are called to office in the church are to lead a life in obedience to Scripture and in conformity to the historic confessional standards of the church. Among these standards is the requirement to live either in fidelity within the covenant of marriage between a man and a woman, or chastity in singleness. We declare the decision of the General Assembly and the subsequent endorsement by the presbyteries to remove the requirements of fidelity in marriage or chastity in singleness to be grievous error, and damaging to the communion of the Church of Jesus Christ.

We will not willingly or knowingly participate in the ordination or installation of deacons, elders, or ministers of Word and Sacrament refusing to repent of any self-acknowledged practice which the confessions call sin. We will neither now nor will we ever intentionally participate in, or support ordinations that are constitutionally or biblically unsustainable. We will vigorously examine each candidate seeking admission to our Presbytery, especially from Presbyteries who cannot share this affirmation in good conscience.

VII. Though no one can achieve perfection during this earthly life, we nevertheless proclaim the possibility of living in greater conformity to the revealed will of God, by the grace of Jesus Christ, sustained by the transcendent power of the Holy Spirit; and we will proclaim this to those who experience same-gender attraction, sexual addiction, sexual temptation leading to promiscuity, and divorce. For both those who experience same-gender attraction and those who experience opposite-gender attraction are subject to the same temptations of mind, heart, and body, bear the same image of God, have the same salvation in Jesus Christ, are given the same Spirit, and bear the same cross.


We cannot and will not recant these statements. Our consciences are captive to the Word of God. We will not cease these proclamations if rebuked. We will not accept discipline that rests on human institutions instead of God's Word. Here we stand. We can do no other. We trust in God through Christ for His deliverance and grace.

Here We Stand

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The holy fear of Moses

With a morning cup of coffee and some free time my husband and I began a conversation about fear and Moses. One can trace three kinds of fear in the life of Moses. The first instance is wise fear, the second fear occurs because of lack of confidence in God’s will—the kind that might lead to disobedience. But the third fear I name holy fear; it belongs to a good and compassionate shepherd and is a picture of all good shepherds of God’s sheep. It is how Moses becomes a prototype for the One truly good Shepherd. Such fear must be held dear by those who lead the Church.

In chapter two of Exodus, Moses kills an Egyptian who is beating a Hebrew; one of his own people. The next day, while trying to settle a fight between two Hebrews, he discovers that although he has buried the Egyptian it is still known that he killed him and he is afraid. When Pharaoh tries to kill him Moses flees to a different land. This is wise fear. It preserves his life.

In chapter three through four Moses is called by God to go back to Egypt as his spokesman; he is to lead the Israelites out of slavery. But Moses is afraid. God has given him a job to do and he feels he isn’t qualified for the calling. He is “slow of speech.” R. Alan Cole, in his commentary points out that the text does not refute this, it may have been correct. However, the problem was Moses’ lack of faith. God tells Moses:
Who has made man’s mouth? Or who makes him mute or deaf, or seeing or blind? Is it not I, the Lord? Now then go, and I, even I, will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say.” (11b-12)
Moses still complains and God gives him Aaron to speak for him. And Moses goes despite his complaining.

But the third fear that belongs to Moses is his fear for the holy name of God and his fear for the people of Israel. All of this is covered in Exodus 32-34. Moses, as he is receiving the Law from God on Mount Sinai is told that the Israelites are involved in idolatry, worshipping the golden calf. Because of the idolatry they were involved in gross idolatrous sexuality. As Cole puts it:

Sat down to eat and drink, and rose up to play. Eat and drink could be innocent enough, after a ‘peace offering’, but the verb translated play suggests sex-play in Hebrew and therefore we are probably to understand drunken orgies. These, in a Baalized context, would have a religious, not an immoral, significance to the worshipper: but not so in YHWH’s sight. In the context of the worship of YHWH, who, by the ‘ten words’ [Ten Commandments], had expressed His very nature in terms of moral requirements, it was intolerable.
What follows is God’s anger. The text states that he desired to destroy the people and seemingly rejects them by calling them Moses’ people rather than his own. Cole calls this an “‘anthropopathism’, describing God’s feelings in human terms, as being more comprehensible to us’ and this chapter is filled with such content. But in this situation Moses becomes a true shepherd. He pleads with God not to destroy his people for the sake of the holiness of the Lord’s own name. Moses reminds God that the Egyptians will say that God simply brought the people out in the wilderness to kill them.
Why should the Egyptians speak, saying, ‘with evil intent he brought them out to kill them in the mountains and to destroy them from the face of the earth’?
Moses was fearful for the honor of God. God had offered to make Moses a great nation. What a great temptation. But Moses reminds God of all of his promises to the ancient patriarchs. This is holy fear, fearing for the honor of God; putting aside any temptation for self-honor for the greater glory of God.

But to go further the Lord tells Moses that as the Israelites travel on their way he will not go with them. The Lord will send an angel with them but he will not go with them “for I will not go up in your midst, because you are an obstinate people, and I might destroy you on the way.” Once again Moses pleads with God because of his fear for the people:
If your presence does not go with us, do not lead us up from here. For then how can it be known that I have found favor in your sight, I and your people? Is it not by your going with us, so that we, I and your people, may be distinguished from all the other people who are upon the face of the earth?
Notice, in this case how Moses merges his own identity with the people he is leading. It is always I and your people. Notice also how he reminds the lord that they are all, Moses and the people, God’s. They all belong to him. Moses clearly understands that the one mark that distinguishes the Israelites from all other peoples is the presence of the Lord in their midst and he intercedes for both himself and the people. Of course God goes with them.

This is the good shepherd who fears for God’s honor and fears for the spiritual wellbeing of his people. If some feel it is dishonorable to call those unfaithful who care little for either the honor and glory of God or the sinful wandering sheep—never mind, pay them no heed—plead for the wellbeing and repentance of sinners. Uphold the glory of Christ who laid it aside for a short while dying so that broken sheep could be healed. The presence of the Lord is a gift to his people and it is a distinguishing mark that they belong to Christ.

Friday, February 10, 2012

A need to apologize--before tomorrow

The Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has recently been confronted by a long-suffering yet weary Jewish Community with such words as “gutter tactics,” “horrific rhetoric,” and “outrageous and uncivil invective.” The Jewish Council for Public Affairs has called on the PCUSA to take action against the IPMN. The JCPA’s beginning statement is:
The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA (IPMN-PCUSA) is a group chartered by the PCUSA General Assembly and advised by members of the denomination's national staff. IPMN-PCUSA’s policies, programs, social media and other communications are a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective, according to extensive research conducted by the JCPA and the Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with JCPA.
Included in their statement is the fact that “the IPMN-PCUSA falsely accused the Jewish community of intimidating Presbyterians by sending a letter-bomb to the church’s headquarters and setting fire to a church.” If one goes to documents for the 219th Presbyterian General Assembly the statement will still be there; it has never been removed, RE: “CHRISTIANS AND JEWS: PEOPLE OF GOD” AN EXAMPLE OF OCCUPATION THEOLOGY The offensive statement is the first footnote. And although Carol Hylkema the moderator of IPMN, admitted it was placed there by one of IPMN’s own she never apologized or denied the accusation’s placement.

The JCPA also noted the many anti-Jewish links and statements placed on the IPMN’s Facebook page which has just recently been removed. They write:
The IPMN-PCUSA Facebook page includes a cartoon of President Obama wearing weighty Jewish star earrings to suggest Jewish control of the American leaders, a common theme on the site. The IPMN-PCUSA has posted articles that accuse Jews of controlling Hollywood, the media, and American politics - and blaming Israel for the American housing and economic crisis. IPMN-PCUSA's communications chair also posted her opposition to a two-state solution and the existence of a Jewish state, something which she terms "anachronistic.” The same IPMN leader, Noushin Framke, clicked "like" on the Obama cartoon with the Jewish stars and another post that Hamas should keep Israeli Gilad Shalit hostage until Palestinians are granted a right of return.
It should be noted that first IPMN took down their Facebook Page and then put it back up for several days with an announcement that it would soon be removed as they would only use Twitter. But with that announcement they also linked to some more sites including one with old pictures of the ancient Holy Land taken in the 1920s and before. Some pictures were beautiful but many had extremely bad propaganda written on them. One suggested that the father of Zionism, Theodor Herzl, was calling for the Jews to come and destroy the Mosque in Jerusalem. This is the kind of tactic that continually besmirches the PCUSA and those of us who are still members.

The IPMN has written an arrogant response to the JCPA which includes the statement that they are not anti-Semitic. As I read it my thoughts went to a book I keep hidden with most of my other yucky research material. That is Henry Ford’s The International Jew. It was written as Hitler was rising to power in Germany and is basically a redo of the Protocols’ of the Elders of Zion a malevolent & fraudulent work. As I read in it I see samples of slander that are not unlike those propagated by the IPMN. For instance in the booklet published by IPMN, Steadfast Hope they write:
The founding narrative of the State of Israel links the modern-day Jews’ claim to their direct genealogical descent from the ancient Israelites. Recent anthropological scholarship shows that this widespread belief is very likely a myth.
And in The International Jew Ford writes:
The fiction that the Jews are an Old Testament people faithful to the Mosaic Law, would then be exploded [if seminarians studied the Protocols] and timid Christians would no longer superstitiously hesitate to speak the truth about them because of that sadly misinterpreted text: “I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee.”
Another example, in Steadfast Hope as well as many statements and links the IPMN insists that Israel controls not only the United States media but also much of its government. The mention above of President Obama wearing Star of David ear rings is but one small case of that equation. It is a constant theme for IPMN. Likewise Ford in The International Jew writes that “all leading news agencies in America are Jew-controlled.” And his book is full of the ways that the Jews supposedly control governments.

At least two years ago IPMN posted a film on their web site entitled “I Am Israel.” It was a horrible video slamming Israel for even existing. It was made by a radical Muslim. A battle ensued between the Jewish Community and IPMN to remove the video. They did remove it, but they never apologized. Supposedly Ford apologized for The International Jew which was published as a series in the Dearborn Press. But it is also rumored that he didn’t and so the material lives on used by the anti-Semites and bigots of the day.

I hope and pray that there will be a clear enough statement and apology by both the leadership of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and the members of the IPMN so that in coming years they will not have contributed to future racists and bigots’ pamphlets of hatred toward the Jewish people.

For additional information please see David Fischler’s IPMN: How Dare You Point Out Our Anti-Semitism.

For help in understanding the issues from a fair and just position go to Presbyterians for Middle East Peace.

Also for lots of good information see

"Presbyterian Church Struggle Continues, Jews Suffer the Consequences" at Camera by Dexter Van Zile

Thursday, February 9, 2012

An update on Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento

An update on Fremont Presbyterian Church in Sacramento

As I wrote in an e-mail to a friend-God is good-praise Him. No the battle is not over but a good beginning has begun.

As most know Sacramento Presbytery voted on the 9th of January to put an administrative commission over Fremont Presbyterian Church to determine if it was in schism. This was in the same meeting where it was found that the negotiating team who never met with Fremont’s negotiating team had opened an escrow account for a small number-about 25- of those voting not to leave the PCUSA. They had also given them a worship place and allowed them to plead for others to join them using official Presbytery stationary. The Fremont’s Session was not informed of their actions. Rather a pastor during question time at the meeting asked if the rumors he had heard were true.

Fremont has filed a complaint with the Synod of the Pacific’s Permanent Judicial Commission. And they have asked for a stay which they have received. The Complaint is based on the understanding that the Presbytery’s actions went against their own “gracious Dismissal Policy.”

Also the Presbytery’s Council voted to dismiss the Presbytery’s negotiating team for the reasons listed above, that is opening an account and providing a worshiping place without telling Fremont’s Session. They were dismissed and thanked. Now Fremont and the Presbytery can begin again with a new group of people. The Presbytery’s Council is to be praised for this. It was a thoughtful and kind move.

Although Fremont is no longer my Church home it will always have my heart.

Please continue to pray for Fremont and the Presbytery.

Monday, February 6, 2012

The missing Facebook page: a different story

Almost a week ago I reported the Israel/Palestine Mission Network of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)’s Facebook page was missing. That was the place where too often some very anti-Semitic articles were linked and some very anti-Semitic comments were allowed. This message is now on their web page:

IPMN Statement on Social Media

IPMN has been a presence on social media sites Facebook and Twitter over the last eighteen months, providing links to stories on Israel and Palestine that are not easily found in the mainstream U.S. media. We have had this clarification posted on our Facebook page:

“The opinions expressed in articles and/or videos posted here are those of the authors/producers, and not necessarily those of the IPMN. This Facebook page demonstrates the diversity of perspectives that exist on Israel/Palestine, and serves to encourage dialogue between differing positions.”

As our “fan base” has grown on Facebook to over 2100, so have the comments, both positive and negative. At present, Facebook does not provide a setting where fans can “like” and “share” links without posting comments that need to be monitored. Since IPMN has no paid staff, we will not be able to keep our Facebook page going, until such a time as new posting settings are made available. Until then, IPMN will post links to articles, commentary, videos, etc. on Twitter:!/IPMN
I had thought that perhaps it was something I had posted or even a comment that some friends had placed there that caused the problem. Evidently not. Today the Facebook page is completely gone and the Jewish Council for Public Affairs posted a statement aimed at the PC (U.S.A.). “JCPA CALLS ON THE PRESBYTERIAN CHURCH (USA) TO CONFRONT ANTI-ISRAEL, ANTI-ZIONIST AND SOMETIMES ANTI-SEMITIC CONTENT IN ITS MISSION NETWORK.” The article begins:
The Jewish Council for Public Affairs called on the Presbyterian Church (USA) to take concrete actions to address the anti-Israel, anti-Zionist, and at times anti-Semitic content that has been all too common in the church’s Israel Palestine Mission Network (IPMN-PCUSA). The Israel Palestine Mission Network of the PCUSA (IPMN-PCUSA) is a group chartered by the PCUSA General Assembly and advised by members of the denomination's national staff. IPMN-PCUSA’s policies, programs, social media and other communications are a wellspring of anti-Jewish and anti-Israel invective, according to extensive research conducted by the JCPA and the Israel Action Network, an initiative of The Jewish Federations of North America in partnership with JCPA.

For example, at an opening program of the IPMN-PCUSA annual conference, the Rev. Craig Hunter said "greed and injustice is a cancer at the very core of Zionism." In a 2010 letter to church delegates, the IPMN-PCUSA falsely accused the Jewish community of intimidating Presbyterians by sending a letter-bomb to the church’s headquarters and setting fire to a church. IPMN-PCUSA tweeted an article proclaiming “Jewish power + Jewish hubris = moral catastrophe of epic proportions.” IPMN-PCUSA also has supported virulently anti-Israel resolutions including those equating Israel with Apartheid and has been a vocal supporter of the anti-Israel boycott, divestment, and sanction movement.
Noting that the page is gone the JCPA states:
The IPMN-PCUSA Facebook page includes a cartoon of President Obama wearing weighty Jewish star earrings to suggest Jewish control of the American leaders, a common theme on the site. The IPMN-PCUSA has posted articles that accuse Jews of controlling Hollywood, the media, and American politics - and blaming Israel for the American housing and economic crisis. IPMN-PCUSA's communications chair also posted her opposition to a two-state solution and the existence of a Jewish state, something which she terms "anachronistic.” The same IPMN leader, Noushin Framke, clicked "like" on the Obama cartoon with the Jewish stars and another post that Hamas should keep Israeli Gilad Shalit hostage until Palestinians are granted a right of return.

While I am glad this much has been accomplished Twitter will still be a problem. Just today on Twitter The IPMN-PCUSA linked to an article by writer Stuart Littlewood who writes for the vile Veterans Today. They did not link to VT but to an Arab Newspaper but nonetheless the writer is the same. Yesterday they linked to James Wall and his article demonizing Alan Dershowitz. But at least there will no longer be a page where Framke can agree with vile links and comments.

HT Dexter Van Zile

Friday, February 3, 2012

Presbyterian Christian Educators and the final word of God

Update In a Footnote at end.
The Presbyterian News Service posted an article, “Read Your Own Story into the Bible Story APCE Told,” about the 2012 conference of the Association of Presbyterian Christian Educators (APCE), "God's Suprising Wonders." The main speaker for the event was Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, the author of many children’s books on spirituality and a new book for adults, God’s Echo: Exploring Scripture with Midrash.

Mary Margaret Flannagan, author of the PNS article, wrote that Sasso “focused on the Jewish tradition of midrash, which she defined as “approaching Scripture as if God was actually talking to us.” And yet Flannagan reports that the speaker stated “What God intended was for each generation to read its story into the text. The Bible is not the final word, but the first word. We should not take it literally, but seriously.” [1](Italics mine)While Sasso’s statement is undoubtedly not the view of all Rabbis concerning the Hebrew Bible, Midrash or the Talmud, which contains midrash, it is absolutely contradictory to Christian Theology. And there is a reason rooted in the very center of Christianity.

Jewish midrash, which was originally rabbinic oral commentary on Hebrew Scripture, is filled with wisdom, mysticism, scholarly thought and stories. Its history and content is complex. Reading midrash may certainly be helpful for Christian study of the Scripture with this in mind: there are two kinds of midrash. There is aggada which has to do with narrative and uses stories, sometimes metaphorically, and halakah which has to do with the interpretation of the law. If this is understood, midrash may be helpful to the Christian reading in order to understand some of the ways early Rabbis viewed various biblical texts and stories.

However, Sasso’s view that the Bible is not the final word is a clear misunderstanding of the Christian faith. Her view cannot be used by an orthodox Christian. In her book God’s Echo, Sasso uses a midrash understanding of the first light that God created, which is viewed as a primordial light that may or may not be hidden, to see the souls of all people as a part of that light. But for the Christian, Jesus, the uncreated One, is the light of the world, which will still be shining when the sun and stars no longer shine.

The prologue to the gospel of John explains that Jesus is the true light whose life gives light to humanity. (John 1:4) Jesus himself, at the festival of light, declares himself to be the light of the world. It is Christ who opens, fulfills and finishes the words and promises of God.

The Christian must take into account God’s final word, Jesus Christ. In the book of Hebrews there is clarification:
God, after he spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom also he made the world.
On the mountain of transfiguration the Father spoke in the presence of the disciples—“This is My Son, My chosen One; listen to Him.” (Luke 9:35b) The eternal Son of the Father is the second person of the Trinity; the Bible is the word of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. The Bible is the first word and the last word because it is God’s word.

We do not read our own story into the Scripture; instead God takes his word and through the Holy Spirit molds and shapes our own broken stories to conform to his will."For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4) (Also 2 Timothy 3:16; 2 Peter 1:20-21.)

In the PNS article Flannagan additionally stated, “Almost echoing the Reformed tradition’s motto, (ecclesia semper reformanda) ―”Reformed and always being reformed by the word of God” ― Sasso dared APCE participants to expect God to engage the community in new ways each time they read Scripture.” Flannagan is making a rather opinionated editorial comment which really needs to be addressed or sorted out.

The motto “Reformed and always being reformed by the word of God” does not mean being met with new truths or revelations; rather it means turning back to the truth of Scripture. The Reformation was not the discovery of new truths but the recovery of the Truth. The Reformers returned to justification by faith, grace and the authority of Scripture. In a time when leadership had turned to tyranny they returned to the priesthood of the believer. In a time when the sacraments were sometimes given as magical rites minus the word the reformers placed the pure word of God with the sacraments. In a time when Pope and Priests too often lived immoral lives they returned to proper church discipline.

The Holy Spirit may open blind or dimming eyes to scriptural truth they have not yet discovered-Christ’s redeeming death, the place of repentance in the life of the believer, the call to be transformed, but it is old truth newly discovered by a needy person. By the study of Scripture the Church may be turned toward a ministry they have yet to consider, but it has always been there in God’s word—feeding the poor, caring for prisoners, giving water to the thirsty, saving those being led away to death, proclaiming the good news.

True Christian Educators are called to equip the children of God with the word of God. We need such educators today to turn the Church back to the authority of the word and the Lordship of Christ.

[1] In a tweet on Sasso's sermon: "#Midrash: Lot's wife turns to look @ the city with compassion. Pillar of salt = a pile of tears, not punishment 4 looking back." This is how using the Bible as only the first word works out. It changes the word of God to make it say what it does not say.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

George Beverly Shea is 103 today!

George Beverly Shea is 103 today. This is an interview:
BGEA: Celebrating 103 Years of Sweet Sounds

Part of the interview is:
"A/ I was born in 1909 in Winchester, Ontario, where my dad served as pastor of the Wesleyan Methodist Church. Six of us were born during that time, and when I was 8, we moved to upstate New York. My mother was a church organist, and at home we had a piano that came from England. Mother played it so beautifully. She instilled in all of us a love for the old hymns. She would wake us up oft-times in the morning with an old song titled, “Singing I Go.” She would play an E-flat chord, and we would hear her voice: Singing I go along life’s road/For Jesus has lifted my load."